On My Way There

March 9, 2020

Do I have an example???

Honestly, this week’s blog post reflection has been difficult for me to start. I wracked my brain for a tech-rich learning experience that had taken place in my classroom. I found it difficult to think of one. Maybe I am being too hard on myself or maybe it is an accurate reflection. 

Either way, what I keep reminding myself of is that the reason I am a COETAILer is to learn how to create more authentic tech-learning experiences for my students. It is natural to feel like I don’t have any worthy examples or if others are way ahead of me in this area since I’m at the beginning of my journey. I am here to grow and go!

As I was digging for an example, one realization that I came to is that tech-rich learning experiences don’t always have to be a “big” project at the end of a unit or some flashy Twitter-worthy activity. What is important is the purpose. By asking myself, the three questions from Kim Cofino’s post, Three Steps to Transforming Learning in Your Classroom, I can mindfully create tech-rich learning experiences with a purpose.

  • Make it Relevant
    • Ask Yourself: How can your students relate to this content in their daily lives or experiences?
  • Real-World Task
    • Ask Yourself: What would a professional in this field do?
  • Authentic Audience
    • Ask Yourself: Who cares about this work?

Teaching Basic Skills

After considering these three questions, I finally made a connection between what my students have been doing for the past five weeks with online learning and tech-rich learning. Online learning has been manageable for my second-grade students because of the tech-rich learning experiences that have taken place in my classroom at the beginning and throughout this year. 

Some of these experiences are simply teaching my students how to log-in to their Gmail accounts, how to upload a video to Seesaw, or how to create a Google Slide and share it. There have also been times when I showed them a tool like Google Slides and had them play around a bit to explore changing the background to match the mood or changing fonts when writing a story to relay a message. Allowing them to play around with all these tools led them to learn new tools on their own.

Learning is based on curiosity more than any other human characteristic.

Are We Getting Smarter about Ed Tech? -Edutopia

Online Learning Experience

If it weren’t for teaching my second graders how to use the products in G Suite (Gmail, Docs, and Slides), they wouldn’t be able to collaborate, receive feedback, and communicate as easily during our online education. Teaching my students these skills has paid off tremendously during this Covid-19 school disruption.

When I taught my students how to give feedback in Google Docs, I wanted them to be able to do this because, in the real world, giving and receiving feedback is essential to growth. Peer to Peer revision sets students up to receive constructive feedback and to give constructive feedback with these three guidelines in mind:

  • Be kind.
  • Be specific.
  • Be helpful.
Peer Critique: Creating a Culture of Revision-Edutopia

Examples

Because my students have learned how to give feedback in class, they can still do this from home during online learning. For example, when my students were working to publish their realistic fiction stories from home, they could still share their stories through Google Docs and give/receive feedback. Without the knowledge of using Google Docs, students would not have been able to receive feedback as easily from their own peers. Giving and receiving feedback has also pushed my students to seek out feedback from me; especially during this time.

Another example from my online learning experience that has shown me that the technology experiences in my classroom this year have been authentic and purposeful has been my students’ ability to navigate their online accounts as second-graders. I am able to ask them to complete tasks such as listening to a collection of poems with audio recordings in Google Slides and comment on each poem for what they notice (rhyme, rhythm, comparisons, etc.). This activity allows them to start thinking like a poet (noticing what poets do) while learning from what their classmates find as well (reading and responding to their classmates’ comments in the thread). These experiences are possible because I taught my students these skills before online learning began.

Example of using comments to grow ideas.

Tech-rich learning can come from teaching basic skills to young learners with authentic learning experiences. These basic skills allow learners to begin accessing the tools we want them to use when creating and making authentic products. They need to start somewhere. 

Organization 

My students’ ability is in part due to my organization of these tools in a more accessible, age-friendly manner. I use Symbaloo to organize all of the websites we use in the classroom. Symbaloo makes it easy for students to navigate all of the sites we use day-to-day. Symbaloo creates simple tiles for all the websites we use in class. They do not need to spend time typing in each web address- which for 2nd graders can take a long time. 

My class Symbaloo homepage.

I also created a Google Doc for each student with all of the sites and username/passwords. They each have their own copy in their Google Drive and a printout. This way students can easily access the sites we use from anywhere. Being organized in this way has paid off in class and while students are trying to manage all of their accounts during online home learning. Streamlining and managing their digital lives are skills students will need and use the rest of their lives. 

On My Way There

Although I know that I have room to grow when planning for more tech-rich learning, I do think I am on my way there. By keeping in mind the SAMR Model, applying the principles of McTighe and Wiggins, and thinking of the questions educators ask when planning for tech-rich integration, I know I will be helping each of my students build a tech-rich foundation.

Author: Andrea Goodrich

I am an international educator working in Hanoi, Vietnam. I have been working overseas for the past 12 years. I started my career in a bilingual school in Guayama, Puerto Rico as a fifth and sixth grade reading teacher. Then I moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador and taught fourth grade for two years. While living in Ecuador, I met my husband and we moved to Seoul, South Korea together. In Seoul, I taught fifth grade for two years and then moved into a literacy specialist role. We are now teaching in Hanoi, Vietnam with our two Korean rescue dogs.

8 thoughts on “On My Way There”

  1. Hey Andrea, don’t be so hard on yourself! 🙂 I think as a grade 2 teacher (I’m 6-8 SEN) you gave some great examples of the basics to start teaching them, logging in, familiarizing with all docs, slides, etc. Even the page to help with remembering passwords! I know I have to do the same with my Middle Schoolers, as by now they have more than enough things to log into and accounts with practically everything! (And they still need reminders to not “resolve” my comments before actually going back to edit their work) I think your point on feedback and learning that it is one way to guide us and help us grow is more than important. I wish all Middle Schoolers were as receptive to feedback as by the time they get to middle school, sadly, many of them are not a fan of feedback- or should I say the “constructive criticism” offered by the teacher or peers. Learning to not take feedback personally, as well as how to give good feedback, like you said, be kind, specific, and detailed is something that I’m so glad begins at such a young age since it continues in the higher grades (always room for growth!) I also think that when you said “Allowing them to play around with all these tools led them to learn new tools on their own.” is something that I wish we did more of as they get older. I think it naturally happens as middle schoolers can be (most of the time) more tech. savvy than the teachers in secondary ed. but to really devote classroom time to “play around” and discover new things that can be equally important to share those things with their peers (and myself)! Which I would hope leads to that continued growth or interest in maintaining that love for learning. The last thing I wanted to ask you more about was your Symbaloo, I have never heard of it, but anything around organization skills and helping SEN students with their executive functioning is of high interest. Would you recommend it for older students as well? I went to the site and took the “quick tour” but it didn’t go into detail about all the pros and cons. With the many many different sites Middle Schoolers use on a regular basis I wasn’t sure if this would be appropriate for them as well, if you could explain it a bit more or go into more detail I would really be grateful. TYIA

    1. Hi Shalene, Symbaloo is useful for any age group, even adults! It is a nice way to organize all the websites you regularly use.

  2. Hi Andrea. Thank you for your blog post! You gave me ideas to think about. One, I’m going to look into Symbaloo. Two, you reminded me I need to understand the SAMR model better-thanks for linking the page so I can read more about it. Three, when my grade does our peer revision writing unit, students could make comments on their Google docs. Thanks again. Holly

    1. Hi Holly. I am glad you found some useful ideas in my blog post. I really like using Symbaloo and my students definitely benefit from it too! I hope you find it useful if you try it out.

  3. Yes Andrea! I love the realization that “tech-rich learning experiences don’t always have to be a “big” project at the end of a unit or some flashy Twitter-worthy activity” YES! This is what COETAIL is all about. Thanks for sharing your Symbaloo example – this a perfect tool to make it easier for our younger learners to access some of the tech tools that they need! Great modelling!

  4. Hi Andrea, I think you’re totally right when you say that online learning does not need to be for “Big projects.” In fact, I feel as though many of the most authentic experiences come from smaller projects where technology can be integrated in a way that feels natural. I really like the idea of using Symbaloo as a way of gathering recommended websites for students. Is this done throughout your school or just your classroom? I think the integration of Google Docs as a way of allowing students to connect and share with one another is a great idea. It’s so important for our students to feel connected to one another through school closures and eLearning.

    1. Hi Simon! Thanks for your comment. I use Symbaloo in my classroom. I don’t think most teachers use it in their rooms. I’ve just found that it saves time because 2nd grade students take forever to type. Haha.

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